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The Dark Knight Returns shows us a different Gotham than one we are used to. A Gotham that hasn’t seen Batman in 10 years, the decade previous he hung up the cape and settled into retirement. Meanwhile, Gotham has been overrun by criminals known as the Mutants, a gang that vow to bathe in the blood of their enemies. As Bruce Wayne struggles to come to terms with not being Batman, he is still haunted by the memories of his past and the death of his parents.
This is my first Graphic Novel, I have always wanted to dive into the Graphic Novel fascination and I have always been fascinated by Batman. He is a character that has so many layers, a tortured past and an obsessive personality that is easily the most relatable super hero.
The Dark Knight Returns starts with Commissioner Gordon being attacked by a group of thugs, he barely manages to survive. Which illustrates perfectly just how bad Gotham has got since Batman retired, where the Police Commissioner can be violently assaulted with no repercussions. It was a very shocking start, that puts one of the most beloved characters in danger and wasted no time in showing how much worse Gotham is without Batman.
Throughout the Novel, Frank Miller introduces us to some characters we have become familiar with such as Two-Face and The Joker as well as introducing us to some new characters like Dr. Wolper and Dr. Willing. I really enjoyed the inclusion of these two characters, they represented a new enemy for Batman. Not an enemy like The Joker that would pose a direct threat, but the Doctors posed an inadvertent threat to Batman and Gotham City. Essentially, they blame the crimes that have been performed by such foes like Two-Face as all Batman’s fault. Deeming The Batman as equally deranged and dangerous as the Two-Face and The Joker.
We also saw a young girl be introduced as the new Robin. Prior to Batman’s return, he is pining the absence of Robin. When he does make his return, he takes the new Robin under his wing, in an attempt to educate her to take the former Robin’s place. The action scenes throughout were incredibly riveting and proved to be a real page turner, the art making the action scenes come alive off of the page. Frank Miller really did illustrate how much of a struggle Batman would have in his age, as he barely managed to be the Mutant leader in a brutal and surprising fight that saw Batman on the losing end for the majority.
We go through the story and the new Commissioner, who has taken over from Jim Gordon in a political struggle. She has focused her attentions on The Batman and arresting him for his crimes. Throughout the novel, we see that The Joker is not quite as rehabilitated as the Doctors alluded too. Stopping another ploy, with The Joker trying his hardest to force Batman to break his rule, to murder. It was an incredibly tense part of the novel.
The last part of the Novel, Batman with the help of a vigilante group known as the sons of Batman rescue people from a burning building. If that wasn’t tense enough, Jim Gordon believes that his wife is still in the building. As he tries to save her, he suffers from chest pains. A scene that is as crushing as it is inspiring.
I didn’t know what to think when the Joker fight wasn’t the final battle, but what we got is more than I bargained for. As Batman, seeing no escape from this life, he fights Super Man. The fight they had was so important, two of DC Comics most iconic heroes fighting each other. It was intense, exciting and unpredictable. It was hard to imagine either Hero winning, and the cameo from Arrow was a nice touch. The end result was as shocking as it was provocative, but ultimately giving us a very satisfying and rewarding ending.
Overall: The Dark Knight Returns is a very dark and gritty look into the obsessive nature of Bruce Wayne. The only complaint I could have was that there seemed to be so much going on at once, it became a little difficult to follow the story. The art was magnificent and it really matched up well with the tone of the story. And it was nothing short of a thrill seeing Batman and Superman go at it, leading to a very rewarding ending.